November 20, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the
midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.
He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the
basic necessities of life.
He saw millions of families trying to live on
incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them
day by day.
He saw millions denied education, recreation, and
the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.
He saw millions lacking the means to buy the
products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable
income denying employment to many other millions.
He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad,
And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of
the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists,
Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of
people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their
faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal
government to the people of our country. He combatted cynicism, fear
and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.
And that is what we have to do today.
And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was
called “socialist.” Social Security, which transformed life for the
elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum
wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was
described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child
labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking
regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions
of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as
“socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our
nation and the foundation of the middle class.
Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President
Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to
millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with
disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county.
Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the
right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American
way of life.
That was then. Now is now.
Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of
2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn
since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off
economically than we were in 1937.
But, here is a very hard truth that we must
acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and
productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy,
tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic
necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to
provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality
is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country
has been in decline and faith in our political system is now
The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else
gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections.
Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis
in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics
and economics will not effectively address it.
If we are serious about transforming our country,
if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are
serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a
political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and
defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The
billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all
of us, and not just the one percent.
We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis
reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must
not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of
their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans
sleep out on the streets.
Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in
the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so
much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In
fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of
wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the
top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a
doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.
Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth
of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.
Today, in America, millions of our people are
working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work
longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country.
Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American
middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going
to the top one percent.
Today, in America, as the middle class continues
to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in
1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42
years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median
female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.
Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the
history of the world, more than half of older workers have no
retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people
with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a
year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death.
“How will I retire with dignity?,” they ask?
Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are
living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36
percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the
highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on
Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no
health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously
high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States
paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out
of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors
Today, in America, youth unemployment and
underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people
in jail than any other country and countless lives are being
destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow
The bottom line is that today in America we not
only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power
structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy
campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political
process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in
In 1944, in his State of the Union speech,
President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights.
This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president
but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it
In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt
stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the
fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic
security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of
quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security.
That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It
is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.
In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic
rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to
a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing,
and time off from work, the right for every business, large and
small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and
domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a
decent home and decent health care.
What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin
Luther King, Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later and what I
believe today, is that true freedom does not occur without economic
People are not truly free when they are unable to
feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to
retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are
unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long
hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.
So let me define for you, simply and
straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds
on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed
economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin
Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has
socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It
builds on the success of many other countries around the world that
have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of
their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the
Democratic socialism means that we must create an
economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.
Democratic socialism means that we must reform a
political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair
but, in many respects, corrupt.
It is a system, for example, which during the
1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and
campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later,
after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street
led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in
government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and
power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then,
when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and
power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!
And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told
that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too
big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police
records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in
their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by
socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.
In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism
for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large
corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for
corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies
which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means
that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not
just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must
be an essential part of what America stands for.
It means that health care should be a right of all
people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in
every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or
Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is
why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system.
Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is
a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go
Medicare for all would not only guarantee health
care for all people, not only save middle class families and our
entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve
the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements
in our economy.
People who get sick will not have to worry about
paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the
doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room.
Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time
worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their
employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not
like simply because their employers are offering them decent health
insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and
work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And
by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the
disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the
world for prescription drugs.
Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015,
a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50
years ago – and that public education must allow every person in
this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the
desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition
free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many
countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United
Democratic socialism means that our government
does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes
far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our
crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of
almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational
opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and
spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.
Democratic socialism means that if someone works
forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty:
that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour
over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world
and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation
now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States,
today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which
does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a
reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is
Democratic socialism means that we have government
policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil
fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we
have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this
planet healthy and habitable for our kids and grandchildren.
Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic,
civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations
must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation,
entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed
for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should
support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last
two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by
$170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million
Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly
stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf
of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and
the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any
truly humane goal.”
It is not acceptable that major corporations stash
their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to
avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not
acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate
than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire
families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their
families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not
acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions
of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in
taxes on those transactions.
Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean
that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also
means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle
of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States,
one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter
turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and
working class people have given up on our political system entirely.
Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national
election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did
not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors
to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to
participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much
to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end
Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt
campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and
large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs
to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We
must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of
So the next time you hear me attacked as a
socialist, remember this:
I don’t believe government should own the means of
production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working
families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.
I believe in private companies that thrive and
invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits
I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes
– if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the
marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.
I don’t believe in special treatment for the top
1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who
are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.
I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I
do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a
pathway to citizenship and a better life.
I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I
believe deeply in American idealism.
I’m not running for president because it’s my
turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of
hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.
No one understood better than FDR the connection
between American strength at home and our ability to defend America
at home and across the world. That is why he proposed a second Bill
of Rights in 1944, and said in that State of the Union:
“America’s own rightful place in the world depends
in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been
carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is
security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”
I’m not running to pursue reckless adventures
abroad, but to rebuild America’s strength at home. I will never
hesitate to defend this nation, but I will never send our sons and
daughters to war under false pretense or pretenses or into dubious
battles with no end in sight.
And when we discuss foreign policy, let me join
the people of Paris in mourning their loss, and pray that those who
have been wounded will enjoy a full recovery. Our hearts also go out
to the families of the hundreds of Russians apparently killed by an
ISIS bomb on their flight, and those who lost their lives to
terrorist attacks in Lebanon and elsewhere.
To my mind, it is clear that the United States
must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime,
and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies
from flourishing. But we cannot – and should not – do it alone.
Our response must begin with an understanding of
past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign
policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military
action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that
ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can
wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for
decades. It begins with the reflection that the failed policy
decisions of the past – rushing to war, regime change in Iraq, or
toppling Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, or Guatemalan President Árbenz
in 1954, Brazilian President Goulart in 1964, Chilean President
Allende in 1973. These are the sorts of policies do not work, do not
make us safer, and must not be repeated.
After World War II, in response to the fear of
Soviet aggression, European nations and the United States
established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – an organization
based on shared interests and goals and the notion of a collective
defense against a common enemy. It is my belief that we must expand
on these ideals and solidify our commitments to work together to
combat the global threat of terror.
We must create an organization like NATO to
confront the security threats of the 21st century – an organization
that emphasizes cooperation and collaboration to defeat the rise of
violent extremism and importantly to address the root causes
underlying these brutal acts. We must work with our NATO partners,
and expand our coalition to include Russia and members of the Arab
But let’s be very clear. While the U.S. and other
western nations have the strength of our militaries and political
systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam,
and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done
primarily by Muslim nations – with the strong support of their
These same sentiments have been echoed by those in
the region. Jordan’s King Abdallah II said in a speech on Sunday
that terrorism is the “greatest threat to our region” and that
Muslims must lead the fight against it. He noted that confronting
extremism is both a regional and international responsibility, and
that it is incumbent on Muslim nations and communities to confront
those who seek to hijack their societies and generations with
intolerance and violent ideology.
And let me congratulate King Abdallah not only for
his wise remarks, but also for the role that his small country is
playing in attempting to address the horrific refugee crisis in the
A new and strong coalition of Western powers,
Muslim nations, and countries like Russia must come together in a
strongly coordinated way to combat ISIS, to seal the borders that
fighters are currently flowing across, to share counter-terrorism
intelligence, to turn off the spigot of terrorist financing, and to
end support for exporting radical ideologies.
What does all of this mean? Well, it means that,
in many cases, we must ask more from those in the region. While
Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon have accepted their
responsibilities for taking in Syrian refugees, other countries in
the region have done nothing or very little.
Equally important, and this is a point that must
be made – countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar,
UAE – countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed
far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. King
Abdallah is absolutely right when he says that that the Muslim
nations must lead the fight against ISIS, and that includes some of
the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region, who, up to this
point have done far too little.
Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in
the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a
campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a
country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops
after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing
for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that
Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the
construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event
– $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight
against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the
government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist
financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel
money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al
Nusra and ISIS.
All of this has got to change. Wealthy and
powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the
sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them. As
we develop a strongly coordinated effort, we need a commitment from
these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over
the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of
cooperation that we desperately need.
Further, we all understand that Bashar al-Assad is
a brutal dictator who has slaughtered many of his own people. I am
pleased that we saw last weekend diplomats from all over world,
known as the International Syria Support Group, set a timetable for
a Syrian-led political transition with open and fair elections.
These are the promising beginnings of a collective effort to end the
bloodshed and to move to political transition.
The diplomatic plan for Assad’s transition from
power is a good step in a united front. But our priority must be to
defeat ISIS. Nations all over the world, who share a common interest
in protecting themselves against international terrorist, must make
the destruction of ISIS the highest priority. Nations in the region
must commit – that instead of turning a blind eye — they will commit
their resources to preventing the free flow of terrorist finances
and fighters to Syria and Iraq. We need a commitment that they will
counter the violent rhetoric that fuels terrorism – rhetoric that
often occurs within their very borders.
This is the model in which we must pursue
solutions to the sorts of global threats we face.
While individual nations indeed have historic
disputes – the U.S. and Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia – the time is
now to put aside those differences to work towards a common purpose
of destroying ISIS. Sadly, as we have seen recently, no country is
immune from attacks by the violent organization or those whom they
Thus, we must work with our partners in Europe,
the Gulf states, Africa, and Southeast Asia – all along the way
asking the hard questions whether their actions are serving our
The bottom line is that ISIS must be destroyed,
but it cannot be defeated by the United States alone. A new and
effective coalition must be formed with the Muslim nations leading
the effort on the ground, while the United States and other major
forces provide the support they need.
It is unacceptable to slander, smear or engage in personal attacks on authors of articles posted on ICH.
Those engaging in that behavior will be banned from the comment section.
with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational
purposes. Information Clearing House has no
affiliation whatsoever with the originator of
this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)